The Dialogue - Crito
The Dialogue - Crito
Scene: The Prison of Socrates
Why have you come at this hour, Crito? it must be quite early.
Crito. Yes, certainly.
Soc. What is the exact time?
Cr. The dawn is breaking.
Soc. I wonder the keeper of the prison would let you in.
Cr. He knows me because I often come, Socrates; moreover, I have done him
Soc. And are you only just come?
Cr. No, I came some time ago.
Soc. Then why did you sit and say nothing, instead of awakening me at
Cr. Why, indeed, Socrates, I myself would rather not have all this
sleeplessness and sorrow. But I have been wondering at your peaceful slumbers,
and that was the reason why I did not awaken you, because I wanted you to be
out of pain. I have always thought you happy in the calmness of your
temperament; but never did I see the like of the easy, cheerful way in which
you bear this calamity.
Soc. Why, Crito, when a man has reached my age he ought not to be
repining at the prospect of death.
Cr. And yet other old men find themselves in similar misfortunes, and age
does not prevent them from repining.
Soc. That may be. But you have not told me why you come at this early
Cr. I come to bring you a message which is sad and painful; not, as I
believe, to yourself, but to all of us who are your friends, and saddest of
all to me.
Soc. What! I suppose that the slip has come from Delos, on the arrival of
which I am to die?
Cr. No, the ship has not actually arrived, but she will probably be here
to-day, as persons who have come from Sunium tell me that they have left her
there; and therefore to-morrow, Socrates, will be the last day of your life.
Soc. Very well, Crito; if such is the will of God, I am willing; but my
beliefs is that there will be a delay of a day.
Cr. Why do you say this?
Soc. I will tell you. I am to die on the day after the arrival of the
Cr. Yes; that is what the authorities say.
Soc. But I do not think that the ship will be here until to-morrow;
this I gather from a vision which I has last night, or rather only just now,
when you fortunately allowed me to sleep.
Cor. And what was the nature of the vision?
Soc. There came to me the likeness of a woman, fair and comely, clothed
in white raiment, who called to me and said: O Socrates -
"The third day hence, to Phthia shalt thou go."
Cr. What a singular dream, Socrates!
Soc. There can be no doubt about the meaning Crito, I think.
Cr. Yes: the meaning is only too clear. But, O! my beloved Socrates, let
me entreat you once more to take my advice and escape. For if you die I shall
not only lose a friend who can never be replaced, but there is another evil:
people who do not know you and me will believe that I might have saved you if
I had been willing to give money, but that I did not care. Now, can there be a
worse disgrace than this - that I should be thought to value money more than
the life of a friend? For the many will not be persuaded that I wanted you to
escape, and that you refused.
Soc. But why, my dear Crito, should we care about the opinion of the
many? Good men, and they are the only persons who are worth considering, will
think of these things truly as they happened.
Cr. But do you see, Socrates, that the opinion of the many must be
regarded, as is evident in your own case, because they can do the very
greatest evil to anyone who has lost their good opinion?
Soc. I only wish, Crito, that they could; for then they could also do the
greatest good, and that would be well. But the truth is, that they can do
neither good nor evil: they cannot make a man wise or make him foolish; and
whatever they do is the result of chance.
Cr. Well, I will not dispute about that; but please to tell me, Socrates,
whether you are not acting out of regard to me and your other friends: are you
not afraid that if you escape hence we may get into trouble with the informers
for having stolen you away, and lose either the whole or a great part of our
property; or that even a worse evil may happen to us? Now, if this is your
fear, be at ease; for in order to save you, we ought surely to run this or
even a greater risk; be persuaded, then, and do as I say.
Soc. Yes, Crito, that is one fear which you mention, but by no means the
Cr. Fear not. There are persons who at no great cost are willing to save
you and bring you out of prison; and as for the informers, you may observe
that they are far from being exorbitant in their demands; a little money will
satisfy them. My means, which, as I am sure, are ample, are at your service,
and if you have a scruple about spending all mine, here are strangers who will
give you the use of theirs; and one of them, Simmias the Theban, has brought a
sum of money for this very purpose; and Cebes and many others are willing to
spend their money too. I say, therefore, do not on that account hesitate about
making your escape, and do not say, as you did in the court, that you will
have a difficulty in knowing what to do with yourself if you escape. For men
will love you in other places to which you may go, and not in Athens only;
there are friends of mine in Thessaly, if you like to go to them, who will
value and protect you, and no Thessalian will give you any trouble. Nor can I
think that you are justified, Socrates, in betraying your own life when you
might be saved; this is playing into the hands of your enemies and destroyers;
and moreover I should say that you were betraying your children; for you might
bring them up and educate them; instead of which you go away and leave them,
and they will have to take their chance; and if they do not meet with the
usual fate of orphans, there will be small thanks to you. No man should bring
children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their
nurture and education. But you are choosing the easier part, as I think, not
the better and manlier, which would rather have become one who professes
virtue in all his actions, like yourself. And, indeed, I am ashamed not only
of you, but of us who are your friends, when I reflect that this entire
business of yours will be attributed to our want of courage. The trial need
never have come on, or might have been brought to another issue; and the end
of all, which is the crowning absurdity, will seem to have been permitted by
us, through cowardice and baseness, who might have saved you, as you might
have saved yourself, if we had been good for anything (for there was no
difficulty in escaping); and we did not see how disgraceful, Socrates, and
also miserable all this will be to us as well as to you. Make your mind up
then, or rather have your mind already made up, for the time of deliberation
is over, and there is only one thing to be done, which must be done, if at
all, this very night, and which any delay will render all but impossible; I
beseech you therefore, Socrates, to be persuaded by me, and to do as I say.
Soc. Dear Crito, your zeal is invaluable, if a right one; but if wrong,
the greater the zeal the greater the evil; and therefore we ought to consider
whether these things shall be done or not. For I am and always have been one
of those natures who must be guided by reason, whatever the reason may be
which upon reflection appears to me to be the best; and now that this fortune
has come upon me, I cannot put away the reasons which I have before given: the
principles which I have hitherto honored and revered I still honor, and unless
we can find other and better principles on the instant, I am certain not to
agree with you; no, not even if the power of the multitude could inflict many
more imprisonments, confiscations, deaths, frightening us like children with
hobgoblin terrors. But what will be the fairest way of considering the
question? Shall I return to your old argument about the opinions of men, some
of which are to be regarded, and others, as we were saying, are not to be
regarded? Now were we right in maintaining this before I was condemned? And
has the argument which was once good now proved to be talk for the sake of
talking; in fact an amusement only and altogether vanity? That is what I want
to consider with your help, Crito: whether, under my present circumstances,
the argument appears to be in any way different or not; and is to be allowed
by me or disallowed. That argument, which, as I believe, is maintained by many
who assume to be authorities, was to the effect, as I was saying, that the
opinions of some men are to be regarded, and of other men not to be regarded.
Now you, Crito, are a disinterested person who are not going to die to -
morrow - at least, there is no human probability of this, and you are
therefore not liable to be deceived by the circumstances in which you are
placed. Tell me, then, whether I am right in saying that some opinions, and
the opinions of some men only, are to be valued, and other opinions, and the
opinions of other men, are not to be valued. I ask you whether I was right in
Soc. The good are to be regarded, and not the bad?
Soc. And the opinions of the wise are good, and the opinions of the
unwise are evil?
Soc. And what was said about another matter? Was the disciple in
gymnastics supposed to attend to the praise and blame and opinion of every
man, or of one man only - his physician or trainer, whoever that was?
Cr. Of one man only.
Soc. And he ought to fear the censure and welcome the praise of that one
only, and not of the many?
Cr. That is clear.
Soc. And he ought to live and train, and eat and drink in the way which
seems good to his single master who has understanding, rather than according
to the opinion of all other men put together?
Soc. And if he disobeys and disregards the opinion and approval of the
one, and regards the opinion of the many who have no understanding, will he
not suffer evil?
Cr. Certainly he will.
Soc. And what will the evil be, whither tending and what affecting, in
the disobedient person?
Cr. Clearly, affecting the body; that is what is destroyed by the evil.
Soc. Very good; and is not this true, Crito, of other things which we
need not separately enumerate? In the matter of just and unjust, fair and
foul, good and evil, which are the subjects of our present consultation, ought
we to follow the opinion of the many and to fear them; or the opinion of the
one man who has understanding, and whom we ought to fear and reverence more
than all the rest of the world: and whom deserting we shall destroy and injure
that principle in us which may be assumed to be improved by justice and
deteriorated by injustice; is there not such a principle?
Cr. Certainly there is, Socrates.
Soc. Take a parallel instance; if, acting under the advice of men who
have no understanding, we destroy that which is improvable by health and
deteriorated by disease - when that has been destroyed, I say, would life be
worth having? And that is - the body?
Soc. Could we live, having an evil and corrupted body?
Cr. Certainly not.
Soc. And will life be worth having, if that higher part of man be
depraved, which is improved by justice and deteriorated by injustice? Do we
suppose that principle, whatever it may be in man, which has to do with
justice and injustice, to be inferior to the body?
Cr. Certainly not.
Soc. More honored, then?
Cr. Far more honored.
Soc. Then, my friend, we must not regard what the many say of us: but
what he, the one man who has understanding of just and unjust, will say, and
what the truth will say. And therefore you begin in error when you suggest
that we should regard the opinion of the many about just and unjust, good and
evil, honorable and dishonorable. Well, someone will say, "But the many can
Cr. Yes, Socrates; that will clearly be the answer.
Soc. That is true; but still I find with surprise that the old argument
is, as I conceive, unshaken as ever. And I should like to know whether I may
say the same of another proposition - that not life, but a good life, is to be
Cr. Yes, that also remains.
Soc. And a good life is equivalent to a just and honorable one - that
Cr. Yes, that holds.
Soc. From these premises I proceed to argue the question whether I ought
or ought not to try to escape without the consent of the Athenians: and if I
am clearly right in escaping, then I will make the attempt; but if not, I will
abstain. The other considerations which you mention, of money and loss of
character, and the duty of educating children, are, I fear, only the doctrines
of the multitude, who would be as ready to call people to life, if they were
able, as they are to put them to death - and with as little reason. But now,
since the argument has thus far prevailed, the only question which remains to
be considered is, whether we shall do rightly either in escaping or in
suffering others to aid in our escape and paying them in money and thanks, or
whether we shall not do rightly; and if the latter, then death or any other
calamity which may ensue on my remaining here must not be allowed to enter
Cr. I think that you are right, Socrates; how then shall we proceed?
Soc. Let us consider the matter together, and do you either refute me if
you can, and I will be convinced; or else cease, my dear friend, from
repeating to me that I ought to escape against the wishes of the Athenians:
for I am extremely desirous to be persuaded by you, but not against my own
better judgment. And now please to consider my first position, and do your
best to answer me.
Cr. I will do my best.
Soc. Are we to say that we are never intentionally to do wrong, or that
in one way we ought and in another way we ought not to do wrong, or is doing
wrong always evil and dishonorable, as I was just now saying, and as has been
already acknowledged by us? Are all our former admissions which were made
within a few days to be thrown away? And have we, at our age, been earnestly
discoursing with one another all our life long only to discover that we are no
better than children? Or are we to rest assured, in spite of the opinion of
the many, and in spite of consequences whether better or worse, of the truth
of what was then said, that injustice is always an evil and dishonor to him
who acts unjustly? Shall we affirm that?
Soc. Then we must do no wrong?
Cr. Certainly not.
Soc. Nor when injured injure in return, as the many imagine; for we must
injure no one at all?
Cr. Clearly not.
Soc. Again, Crito, may we do evil?
Cr. Surely not, Socrates.
Soc. And what of doing evil in return for evil, which is the morality of
the many - is that just or not?
Cr. Not just.
Soc. For doing evil to another is the same as injuring him?
Cr. Very true.
Soc. Then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone,
whatever evil we may have suffered from him. But I would have you consider,
Crito, whether you really mean what you are saying. For this opinion has never
been held, and never will be held, by any considerable number of persons; and
those who are agreed and those who are not agreed upon this point have no
common ground, and can only despise one another, when they see how widely they
differ. Tell me, then, whether you agree with and assent to my first
principle, that neither injury nor retaliation nor warding off evil by evil is
ever right. And shall that be the premise of our agreement? Or do you decline
and dissent from this? For this has been of old and is still my opinion; but,
if you are of another opinion, let me hear what you have to say. If, however,
you remain of the same mind as formerly, I will proceed to the next step.
Cr. You may proceed, for I have not changed my mind.
Soc. Then I will proceed to the next step, which may be put in the form
of a question: Ought a man to do what he admits to be right, or ought he to
betray the right?
Cr. He ought to do what he thinks right.
Soc. But if this is true, what is the application? In leaving the prison
against the will of the Athenians, do I wrong any? or rather do I not wrong
those whom I ought least to wrong? Do I not desert the principles which were
acknowledged by us to be just? What do you say?
Cr. I cannot tell, Socrates, for I do not know.
Soc. Then consider the matter in this way: Imagine that I am about to
play truant (you may call the proceeding by any name which you like), and the
laws and the government come and interrogate me: "Tell us, Socrates," they
say; "what are you about? are you going by an act of yours to overturn us -
the laws and the whole State, as far as in you lies? Do you imagine that a
State can subsist and not be overthrown, in which the decisions of law have no
power, but are set aside and overthrown by individuals?" What will be our
answer, Crito, to these and the like words? Anyone, and especially a clever
rhetorician, will have a good deal to urge about the evil of setting aside the
law which requires a sentence to be carried out; and we might reply. "Yes; but
the State has injured us and given an unjust sentence." Suppose I say that?
Cr. Very good, Socrates.
Soc. "And was that our agreement with you?" the law would say; "or were
you to abide by the sentence of the State?" And if I were to express
astonishment at their saying this, the law would probably add: "Answer,
Socrates, instead of opening your eyes: you are in the habit of asking and
answering questions. Tell us what complaint you have to make against us which
justifies you in attempting to destroy us and the State? In the first place
did we not bring you into existence? Your father married your mother by our
aid and begat you. Say whether you have any objection to urge against those of
us who regulate marriage?" None, I should reply. "Or against those of us who
regulate the system of nurture and education of children in which you were
trained? Were not the laws, who have the charge of this, right in commanding
your father to train you in music and gymnastic?" Right, I should reply.
"Well, then, since you were brought into the world and nurtured and educated
by us, can you deny in the first place that you are our child and slave, as
your fathers were before you? And if this is true you are not on equal terms
with us; nor can you think that you have a right to do to us what we are doing
to you. Would you have any right to strike or revile or do any other evil to a
father or to your master, if you had one, when you have been struck or reviled
by him, or received some other evil at his hands? - you would not say this?
And because we think right to destroy you, do you think that you have any
right to destroy us in return, and your country as far as in you lies? And
will you, O professor of true virtue, say that you are justified in this? Has
a philosopher like you failed to discover that our country is more to be
valued and higher and holier far than mother or father or any ancestor, and
more to be regarded in the eyes of the gods and of men of understanding? also
to be soothed, and gently and reverently entreated when angry, even more than
a father, and if not persuaded, obeyed? And when we are punished by her,
whether with imprisonment or stripes, the punishment is to be endured in
silence; and if she leads us to wounds or death in battle, thither we follow
as is right; neither may anyone yield or retreat or leave his rank, but
whether in battle or in a court of law, or in any other place, he must do what
his city and his country order him; or he must change their view of what is
just: and if he may do no violence to his father or mother, much less may he
do violence to his country." What answer shall we make to this, Crito? Do the
laws speak truly, or do they not?
Cr. I think that they do.